TMH Living Well: Keeping toddlers safe through the holidays

Here are some helpful tips to keep toddlers safe during the holiday season.

Practice tree sense

To start, pick your tree wisely. A dry tree is a dangerous tree. When selecting a live tree, make sure that the needles are bendable and fresh rather than brittle. If you feel sticky resin on the trunk, then it’s fresh. Finally, give it a shake. If needles don’t fall off, you’ve found a winner.

Place the tree away from such potential fire starters as fireplaces, radiators and portable heaters. Pick a spot that’s out of the way of traffic.

“Be mindful about where you place holiday plants, as well. Poinsettias, mistletoe and holly are all poisonous to children and should be kept out of reach,” said Dr. Kelly Follett, pediatrician with The Memorial Hospital's Medical Clinic.

The holidays are a good time to make sure your smoke detectors are working. “I advise my families to check their smoke detectors every six months,” said Dr. Kristie Yarmer, also a pediatrician with the TMH Medical Clinic.

Tempting trimmings and decorations

Glass tree ornaments and decorations are beautiful, but they are often thin and easily breakable. Even if they might be your favorites, it’s best to pack away the most delicate of these for later years, or opt for shatterproof options available at most department stores.

Decorations can have separate small parts, a choking hazard for young children. “It’s important to remember that these small parts are not just a choking hazard but may also be put in the nose or even the ear,” Yarmer said.

Toys, oh joy!

There’s nothing like watching a child open a present and find a toy she’s been wishing for or wanting. You’ve heard a hundred times that toys with small parts are dangerous for young children, but what if your 7-year-old put Legos on his wish list? Does he have to go without? Of course not — just set some rules about toys with small parts around younger siblings.

“Make sure the older child plays with his Legos or her Barbies in a separate room where the little one can’t get to them. You can even block off the area with a baby gate or childproofed bedroom door. Buy a container with a tight lid for storage, and have a rule that the child must clean up and put away the Legos as soon as he is done playing with them,” Yarmer said. Let the older child know why small parts are bad for babies.

Avoid buying toys with small magnets, and if buying toys that require batteries, make sure the back is always securely screwed into place.

“Every year, children are brought into the Emergency Department because they’ve swallowed batteries. Magnets are also very dangerous if ingested and demand a trip to the ED,” Follett said.

Turn up your antennas when guests arrive

With all the hustle and bustle during holidays of making meals and entertaining, young kids can get forgotten for brief moments, or you might assume that someone else is watching them. To avoid mishaps, make a conscious effort to assign caregivers if you can’t watch your child yourself.

Also, close bathroom doors and bedroom doors — especially those to guest rooms. “I’ve had several kids in the ED who ingested Grandma’s heart medicine because they found it in her purse and thought it was candy,” Follett said. She advises that parents post the poison control phone numer, 1-800-222-1222.

Keep an extra eye on safety this season, and it’s bound to be merry.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered health care and service excellence.

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